Red Hat Conference Full Of Welcome Surprises For Partners

Jerry Lumpkin

Red Hat on Tuesday unveiled a number of enhancements to its channel program, with an emphasis on helping channel partners get better prepared to build hybrid clouds based on open source technology.

New from Red Hat is what the company calls the first-ever channel program designed around helping solution providers build OpenStack clouds. Also new are the first formal channel programs for several components provided by Red Hat for building OpenStack-based clouds, including Red Hat Enterprise Storage, Red Hat CloudForms technology and Red Hat Enterprise Storage.

[Related: Google Prepping Tiered Channel Program For Google Cloud Platform ]

Red Hat also unveiled new enhancements to its Online Partner Enablement Network (OPEN), including a new deal registration program giving partners enhanced protection and margins for up to two years, said Jerry Lumpkin, senior director of North American channel sales for the company. The enhancements were unveiled at the Red Hat Partner Summit, held this week in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Sponsored post

Red Hat has been doing a lot of work getting many of its products ready for the channel, Lumpkin said. "You can't just take a product and put it in the channel without the right foundation," he said. "There's a lot of work done behind the scenes. It's not glamorous."

John Iacone, president of International Integrated Solutions (IIS), a Plainview, N.Y.-based solution provider and Red Hat partner, said if he were asked six months ago whether he could see his company offering OpenStack, he would have said no. However, Iacone said, things have changed after seeing what Red Hat can bring to partners.

"Today, I'll say yes," he said. "OpenStack is growing quickly. I'm seeing our customers start to build their own cloud using OpenStack. Red Hat is here saying they've built a new OpenStack business in the last 12 months, and to show resellers what they have learned. They want resellers to build solutions. So I'll be looking at getting into OpenStack with Red Hat."

Building a better program for Red Hat's 800-plus North American channel partners is essential for the company's future success, said Mark Enzweiler, vice president of global partners and alliances at Red Hat. Enzweiler told partners during his Red Hat Partner Summit presentation that over 80 percent of his company's customers are managed by its partner base. "This is why we have to lean heavily on you to understand the voice of the customer," he said.

NEXT: Channel Program For OpenStack

Red Hat also unveiled a first formal channel play for building clouds based on the OpenStack hybrid cloud platform. The program is still limited as Red Hat starts offering partners new certifications and training that will let them be able to stand up an OpenStack cloud, said Radhesh Balakrishnan, general manager of Red Hat's virtualization business unit.

"OpenStack is not like loading AOL off a CD," Balakrishnan said. "It's very technical. We are actively seeking a VIP set of partners so we can help them build the skills needed to develop OpenStack."

While Red Hat has already started working with a few large systems integrators to develop proofs-of-concept, this week's new program is aimed at helping more traditional solution providers have an opportunity to eventually build an OpenStack practice, Balakrishnan said. "The time is right to build the partner ecosystem," he said. "There is enough business to go around that it is time to encourage partners."

Red Hat also used the Red Hat Partner Conference to highlight new channel programs for many components that are part of the OpenStack cloud.

Joseph Fitzgerald, general manager for cloud management products at Red Hat, said his company is rolling out a formal channel program for its CloudForms technology.

Red Hat CloudForms, based on Red Hat's 2012 acquisition of ManageIQ, allows the building of private clouds using the Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform, with such capabilities as self-service provisioning, workflow processes, capacity and usage control, quota enforcement, intelligent workload placement and post-provisioning operations. It also works with Amazon EC2 for building hybrid clouds with a unified management console for both on-premise and cloud infrastructures.

Fitzgerald, who was founder and CEO of ManageIQ before the acquisition, said that many of the top vendors offer cloud management technology, including rival VMware via its 2012 acquisition of DynamicOps.

"The difference is that Red Hat took CloudForms open," he said. "Red Hat paid over $100 million for ManageIQ. Now Red Hat wants to make it free."

Red Hat is looking for partners who have infrastructure or Infrastructure-as-a-Service experience, Fitzgerald said. "Partners focused on apps may not be ideal," he said. "But if they work on virtualization and helping customers move from traditional infrastructure to the cloud, we want to talk to them."

Red Hat is in the process of starting to train partners on Red Hat CloudForms, Lumpkin said. The program will help partners work with all flavors of virtual machines, including those formed with Red Hat, VMware and other platforms, he said.

NEXT: Bringing Red Hat Enterprise Storage To The Channel

Also new is a formal channel program for Red Hat Enterprise Storage, which is based on Red Hat's 2011 acquisition of Gluster, a provider of open-source scale-out storage software.

Red Hat Enterprise Storage is a software-defined storage technology that solution providers can use to turn industry-standard x86-based servers into enterprise scale-out storage appliances, said Ranga Rangachari, vice president and general manager of Red Hat's storage business unit.

The most recent release from late 2013 also supports OpenStack to provide integrated storage capabilities to the cloud, Rangachari said. "Most customers want an integrated offering with scale-up storage and capacity," he said.

Red Hat is authorizing certain channel partners to get certified for Red Hat Enterprise Storage through its OPEN program, Rangachari said. "We're now ready to launch," he said. "We've got partners ready to get trained."

Ideal partners for Red Hat Enterprise Storage include those who understand open source, which is a large part of the company's partner base, Rangachari said. They also likely will have existing delivery practices around data protection, disaster recovery and wide-area replication, and hopefully around the cloud as well, he said. "But the cloud is really new, and I don't expect a lot of partners do it yet," he said.

In addition, Red Hat is looking to engage partners with its Red Hat OpenShift Platform-as-a-Service offering, said Ashesh Badani, general manager of the cloud business unit and OpenShift PaaS at Red Hat. OpenShift, which provides a scalable, multitenant and secure platform for developing hybrid cloud applications, is available for traditional Red Hat Enterprise Linux implementations, for applications developed for Amazon Web Services and for private PaaS offerings, Badani said.

The company already has 10 solution provider partners who are OpenShift-ready. "They have the training and skills to talk to customers," he said. "We want to make sure some partners are certified and skilled so that, when they go to a customer, they can have a conversation on OpenShift use cases."

Red Hat also enhanced several parts of OPEN, including significantly improved margins and timing for partners who register deals for net-new customers, Lumpkin said.

While Lumpkin did not reveal how much Red Hat enhanced its registered deal margins, he said the company is now extending the time a deal can be registered by a couple of years, including the original deal and two subsequent renewal periods.

NEXT: Extended Margins For Registered Deals And Teaming Agreements

"That's two years," Lumpkin said. "That's almost unheard of in the channel. Now when a deal is registered, the partner has benefits extended for a longer period so no one can come in, bid low and steal the business."

One solution provider, who requested anonymity, called the extended deal registration significant, although Red Hat had yet to provide partners with the details. "If it's true, that's great," the solution provider said. "I hope VMware hears about it and matches it."

Lumpkin said Red Hat also increased the margins it offers partners on teaming agreements, although he declined to provide actual numbers. Such teaming agreements come into play when Red Hat or a solution provider sees an opportunity and brings the other team into that potential deal, he said.

"Our focus is to foster a new strategic relationship between Red Hat and our partners," Lumpkin said. "We want to give partners the opportunity to work with a new suite of products they can use to upsell customers."

Caroline Hinton, vice president of software product marketing for Insight, a Tempe, Ariz.-based solution provider and Red Hat partner, said she has watched Red Hat working on updating its channel program for the last year, and likes what she sees.

"What we really like is how Red Hat not only increased the opportunity for deal registration and teaming, but also the enabling piece so we can get up to speed," Hinton said. "The company is showing real maturity in how it goes to market."